Archive for March, 2009

Enliven your taste buds!

So, every month I get together with a group of women to cook. To be quite honest, while the dishes we make are tasty, they are not the most adventurous. Usually we prepare something from Ina or Giada’s latest tome. More recently, we’ve been cooking a lot from Suzanne Goin (you’ve read her book, yes? If not, stop reading immediately and go get it!). This always promises great results, but sometimes I crave something a little more exciting. 

Enter Clifford Wright’s Some Like It Hot. If your weekly meals are a little on the blah side, or you’re stuck in a rut, this book is exactly what you need. From Jamaican Jerk Shrimp to Indian Pork Vindaloo to Louisiana Gumbo, Wright takes you from Peru to Ghana – one spicey dish at a time. He gives a little history of the region, introduces you to a few new spices and guides you through authentic recipes. Great food AND you learn something new!

Can this be as good as my favorite Thai place?

A greater depth of flavor than my favorite Thai place.




Crying Tiger

My all-time favorite restaurant dish is from a Thai place nearby my house. It’s an appetizer consisting of chargrilled flank steak doused in a sauce containing typical Thai hot, sour, spicey and sweet flavors. The dish at this particular restaurant is called Neau Sa Ded, but more often, you’ll see it listed as Crying Tiger or Tiger Cry.

I crave it.


When all the beef is gone, I swat away my server’s attempts to remove the dish before I can pour the sauce on anything/everything else that comes to the table. It’s on my “if you could only have one dish for the rest of your life” list. I think you get the picture, yes? I’ve tried semi-successfully to recreate it at home. Thanks to Clifford Wright, I’m getting quite a bit closer. In fact, this is probably more complex than my beloved Neau Sa Ded. 

Dipping sauce - this is some hot stuff!!

Dipping sauce - this is some hot stuff!!

Dipping Sauce

 The dipping sauce uses quite a few dried chili peppers. If you can’t stand the heat, by all means, tone it down (I would never do such a thing myself…). The recipe also calls for galangal. I came across this root at Whole Foods a few months ago and quickly snatched it up and stashed it in my freezer for safe keeping. I always came across recipes requiring it but could never find it. Of course, once I found it, I had lost the recipes. Anyway…now I’ve had it and I can say I prefer the taste of ginger and would use that instead.

The only major changes I made to the recipe were to add a little sugar to the dipping sauce and finish it off with a little more vinegar – just to make sure the sweet and sour flavors were covered.  To make a meal, I served the meat and dipping sauce over jasmine rice and stir-fried green beans. Hot stuff my friend! But I loved every minute of it!

Crying Tiger

Adapted from Clifford Wright’s Some Like It Hot


1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Thai fish sauce
1 T sugar (beef) + 2 t sugar (dipping sauce)
1 lb beef rib eye or beef round (London Broil) in 1 piece
2 heads garlic
2 t oil
1/4 cup dried and crumbled birds-eye chilis, piqun chilis or chile de arbol
1/2 t salt
1 shallot chopped
1 T chopped cilantro
1 one-inch cube of fresh galangal or ginger, chopped
3 T fresh lime juice
1 t rice wine vinegar


1. In a baking dish large enough for the beef, combine soy sauce, 2 T fish sauce and 1 T of sugar. Stir till sugar dissolves. Place beef in dish, let marinate for 1 hour, flipping once.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut tops off of heads of garlic. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast until insides are soft – about 40 minutes. Cool, the squeeze garlic out into bowl of food processor. Set aside.

3. Prepare the dipping sauce. In a small cast iron skillet, dry-roast the chilis over high heat with salt until chiles begin to blacken – 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool and add to the food processor.

4. Add the shallot, cilantro and galangal to the food processor. Puree into a paste. 

5. Add the remaining 2 T fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar and remaining 2t sugar to the food processor and continue to puree, scraping down the sides when necessary, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl for serving.

6. Preheat grill. 

7. Place steak on the grill and cook until center is medium rare – 8 to 10 minutes. 

8. Remove the steak and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

9. Slice crosswise into thin slices and serve with the sauce.



Ms. Pantry Raid

Read Full Post »

Transports you right to France - although I've bastardized it by adding Feta and Mascarpone

Transports you right to the south of France - although I've bastardized the effect by serving it with Feta and Mascarpone


AKA – Food only chicks like

My husband has an aversion to olives. Most men seem to share this trait and I simply do not comprehend it. I do try to help cure him of this ailment, but to no avail. Unbeknownst to me, he also has an aversion to capers. And sundried tomatoes. And basil. After 10 years together, I JUST found this out. And sadly, these are a few of my favorite things.

As I was reading The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, I came across a delicious sounding dish that had all of the above in it. A Provencal Tomato Spread. Paired with bread slathered with mascarpone and feta cheese shot under the broiler and a nice salad, what could be better? This is my kind of eating. Too bad my husband doesn’t agree. 

What else could you do with this?

Toss with pasta. Serve over chicken. Wish fish. It’s highly versatile. I’m quite certain it will end up with pasta by week’s end – that is, if I don’t tire of loading it on top of fresh bread first.

Provencal Tomato Spread

From Kathleen Finn. Read her book for more great recipes (and a lot of fun too).


4 tablespoons olive oil
1 red medium bell pepper, peeled, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped (1 ½ cups) 
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (1 cup) 
6 to 8 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (¾ cup)
12 Nicoise olives, chopped
3/4 tablespoon capers
2 cups chopped fresh basil


  • In a small sauté pan, warm the oil over medium heat.
  • Add bell pepper, onions, and garlic and cook until soft.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and capers and cook gently.
  • Remove from heat. 
  • When cool, add the basil.
  • Add coarse salt and pepper to taste.


Ms. Pantry Raid

Read Full Post »

Did you know Meyer lemons are regular lemons crossed with Mandarin oranges? Well, now you do!

Did you know Meyer lemons are regular lemons crossed with Mandarin oranges? Well, now you do!


Quenching a thirst

If you knew me, you’d know I live on diet soda. It is a bad, bad habit and one I try, however feebly, to break. So today, I was sitting at home staring at the computer thinking “gosh, I’m thirsty”. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I was on diet soda number two and it was not yet 10 a.m. For some reason, I also thought “wouldn’t lemonade be tasty?”. Which is an odd thing for me cause usually I’m an iced tea person (and that’s my NEW addiction – the one I’m using to wean myself off the diet drinks).

Well, lo-and-behold, I just HAPPENED to have four Meyer lemons sitting around, begging to be used. Having never even made regular lemonade, and still being glued to the computer screen, I Googled up a recipe. I made a few modifications, tossed in a sprig of Rosemary for good measure and poured it over ice in my favorite “Wedding Registry” glasses (the ones we don’t dare use for every day). 

Why are Meyer lemons so dang special anyway?

Meyer lemons are regular lemons crossed with, I believe, Mandarin oranges.  So they are sweeter and quite a bit less tart than regular lemons. They can even be described as “floral” tasting. And they have thinner skins which means you can pretty much eat them peel and all.  

Saying that, I don’t know if they make the best lemonade. I like my lemonade very tart. Shoot, vinegar is my favorite condiment if that tells you anything about my sensibilities. Meyer lemonade is kinda wussy. But maybe, you might like that kind of thing.

Meyer Lemonade

Meyer Lemonade

Meyer Lemonade


4 Meyer Lemons

some sugar for sprinkling over lemon zest

1/2 cup Simple Syrup

1 Qt cold water


  • Zest the lemons. Put the zest aside and cover with a sprinkling of sugar.
  • Juice the lemons into your pitcher
  • Add the zest to the pitcher
  • Add the simple syrup
  • Add the water and stir
  • Serve over ice
  • Add an herb sprig to be festive

Read Full Post »

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze 

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze

Tasty AND dairy-free 

I generally pride myself on the fact I can come up with a dish for any occasion. So when a friend asked me to bring a dairy-free dessert to cap off our meal together, I thought “no sweat! Give me a real challenge!”. I obviously had no idea just how much dairy I use on a daily basis. I scoured my books – always a bit of cream, a smidge of butter. Oh dear, am I going to fail? This was no good! The only thing I could come up with was Sabayon over berries – one of my all-time favorite desserts – but its transportability is nil.  And I’m quite sorry, but berries sans Sabayon are not a dessert in my book.

I finally remembered an olive oil cake I made a few years ago. Spiked with rosemary, it was…different. But in a complex “adult”  way. The only thing bad about it was that it was a touch dry. Something a little dairy could probably help fix. But alas, not today.

So I dusted off the recipe and whipped up a batch. Thinking that it would somehow benefit from a Meyer Lemon glaze, I threw that over top while it was cooling.

The taste of the cake is very interesting. A mild olive oil flavor shot through with the piney tinge of fresh Rosemary.  Make sure to use an olive oil you like the flavor of. I had two in the pantry. The cheap one was fruity with no strange aftertastes. The expensive one was more complex, but had a peppery bite at the end. Definitely NOT cake material! And it’s pricey, so my pocketbook is glad it got the boot.

As I said before, this cake turns out pretty dry. BUT it makes outstanding breakfast bread. Toast it, slather it with Lurpak (or your favorite European butter) and have Jeeves serve it with your morning tea.  Your IQ will immediately shoot up 10 points.

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze

Cake courtesy of Babbo Cookbook – Mario Batali

Serves 8 – 10

4 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For glaze (I’ll be completely honest here, I have no clue what I did for the glaze. But this one seems kinda right. I think I only did half a recipe though.)

1/4 cup   fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup  granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners sugar



  • Preheat the oven to 325 F.
  • Spray a 10-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  • Using the whip attachment, beat the eggs in a mixer for 30 seconds.
  • Add the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture is very foamy and pale in color. With the mixer running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
  • Using a spatula, gently fold the rosemary into the batter.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. The cake is done when it is golden brown, springs back when touched, and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Allow the cake to cool briefly in the pan, then tip out onto a cake rack to continue cooling. Glaze while still hot.


  • In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice and granulated sugar, then whisk in the confectioners sugar until the glaze is smooth.
  • Strain any lumps as necessary.
  • Pour glaze over hot cake.

Read Full Post »

  Winter Caprese Salad - how to use those nasty, mealy hothouse tomatoes.

Winter Caprese Salad - how to use those nasty, mealy hothouse tomatoes.

Well, I know we on the cusp of spring, but we are months from decent tomatoes and I’m craving them. This  Winter Caprese salad makes use of oven roasted tomatoes, which are so sweet and flavorful, I’m just sure you will fall in love with them. They are much different than their chewy sun-dried counterparts. If you haven’t already, give them a whirl. 

Of course, fresh basil is, strictly speaking, not to be had in winter either. You can make yourself feel better by turning the basil into a pesto, but since I just love the taste of fresh basil at any time of year, I’ve left it as is. Served over a little fresh mozzerella, a spritz of good vinegar and olive oil, smidge of sea salt and voila! It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy!

Winter Caprese Salad

Adapted from Gourmet mag

Makes 4 servings.

1 pound plum tomatoes, quarted lengthwise.
2T olive oil (plus more for drizzling over salad)
1/2 pound fresh mozzerella sliced  1/4 inch thick.
a handful of fresh basil
Balsamic vinegar (for drizzling over salad)
Salt and freshly ground pepper


    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with a rack in the middle.
    • Toss tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
    • Place tomatoes on baking sheet (with sides to catch the juices) cut side up and roast in oven for 45 minutes or until the skins are wrinkly and the bottoms start to brown.
    • Remove from oven and cool completely.
    • Slice basil thinly.
    • Assemble cheese and roasted tomatoes on a plate, sprinkle with basil.
    • Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season with freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

    Read Full Post »

    Food Books

     The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn

    I actually rather enjoyed this story of woman in her mid-30’s, recently fired from her office job, on a quest to “find herself” by enrolling in Le Cordon Bleu cooking school for a year. What did she have to lose? So even though this book might scream Eat, Pray, Love, it, thankfully, is not.  Instead of complete vapid narcissim (oy, the ENTIRE India section, anyone?), it’s a fun little tome of one woman’s day to day life at the school – an experience she’s always wanted to have, but career and life got in the way in the past. It’s not glitz and glam – it’s a lot of hard work (and some of it is quite graphic surrounding the gutting of fish and other creatures) and the author seems to spend a lot of her time shuttling herself back and forth to the school instead of enjoying the city. Still, it’s a fun, light read and a bit of a glimpse into what it’s like attending the school – for those of us mere mortals who do not have the where-with-all (i.e. funds) to spend a year of our lives learning to be better cooks.

    The dough had a lot of flavor, but was too chewy for me.

    The dough had great flavor, but was a little chewy for me.

    An added bonus in the book is the handful of recipes Ms. Flinn has included in the work. Today, I’m attempting her Pizza with Herbs recipe, although I’m not grilling it as she suggests. I also wish to try out her Tomato Provencal Spread and of course, the Nutella Crepes – she sprinkles brown sugar over the top and pops them under the broiler. How good would that be??

    Anyway, here’s the pizza recipe as I’ve made it. Check out her book for the exact recipe (I’ve kept the crust pretty much intact – just didn’t grill it).

    Pizza Grillee from The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

    Ingredients for the Dough:

    1 package active dry yeast

    1 cup warm water

    2 cups all purpose flour

    1 T olive oil

    1 t Italian seasoning

    2 t sugar

    1/2 t salt

    1/4 t garlic powder

    Extra flour for kneading


    • Dissolve yeast in warm water – set aside for 10 minutes or so. 
    • Mix flour, oil, seasoning, sugar, salt and garlic powder in a large bowl.
    • Add water mixture to flour mixture. Stir to mix.
    • Gently knead for a few minutes on a lightly floured surface.  The dough will be very soft and elastic. 
    • Shape into a ball and place in an oiled bowl.
    • Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot for an hour – or until doubled.
    • Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
    • Punch down, divide dough into two balls.
    • Stretch dough into circular shape. If you have a peel and a stone, you know what to do. Otherwise, stretch on a pizza pan.
    • Top and bake in your pre-heated 450 degree oven for like 10 minutes. 

    Read Full Post »

    Something tells me the little girl in the "I'm a PC and I'm 4 1/2" could have taken a better picture...  

    Something tells me the little girl in the "I'm a PC and I'm 4 1/2" commercial could have taken a better picture... Oy.

    Yes, you can make tacos without that ubiquitious packet of seasoning mix. And guess what else – it’s a heck of a lot tastier and not that much more work. If you want to take it to another level, search out fresh taco shells from a local taqueria and maybe some Mexican crema. Or you could even make your own shells (yeah, I’m not that ambitious). But if you can’t go quite that far, just lose the packet. You’ll be so glad you did!

    The recipe I use comes from America’s Test Kitchen.  Mostly, I’m including it here cause I use it often and always forget which book it comes out of.

    Beef Tacos

    Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen 

    2 teaspoons vegetable oil
    1 small onion, minced
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    2 tablespoons chili powder
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/2 teaspoon oregano
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1 lb lean ground beef (very important! the way this recipe is written, you don’t drain the beef…so unless you like greasy orange beef…get lean)
    1/2 cup canned tomato sauce
    1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
    2 teaspoons cider vinegar
    1 teaspoon light brown sugar
    8 taco shells


    • Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
    • Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
    • Stir in the garlic, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt
    • Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
    • Stir in the ground beef
    • Cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
    • Stir in the tomato sauce, broth, vinegar, and sugar
    • Simmer until thickened, about 10 mintues.
    • Season with salt to taste.
    • Divide the filling evenly among taco shells and serve, passing any desired accompaniments separately.

    Read Full Post »



    Victoria would have approved the Chocolate Armagnac Cake

     I wasn’t going to make this week’s TWD recipe, but I’m having a really tough week and I thought it would get my mind off things. Between job problems and family problems, you could say that all around things aren’t going very well. But the real topper to all of this is that we had to put our beloved cat, Victoria, to sleep on Friday. 

    She was in the advance stages of kidney failure. It was so far gone that any treatment would have only prolonged her life a few weeks, maybe months. In retrospect, we believe her kidney problems have been going on for at least 5 years but just never showed up on any of the tests that we ran. Through changes to her diet, we were lucky enough to slow down the progression of the disease. But on Friday, our luck ran out. So we made the decision that all pet owners dread – one that we didn’t think we were going to have to make for a few more years at least. 

    I originally began this post detailing the events of the day. While it proved to be therapeutic for me, I don’t think it celebrated her life. So I scrapped it and instead am only writing about the good memories. I dedicate this post today to the memory of all pets. Please feel free to share your stories.

    Miss Victoria was my husband’s cat and always treated me with apprehension as I was “the other woman”. Prim and proper, she pranced around showing everyone how beautiful she was, enticing people to pet her. And she’d allow it for maybe a second and then, with a quick turn of her head, a hiss and a show of teeth and petting time was abruptly over. In later years, she got a little bit better – allowing people other than my husband to get close to her. 

    She was ever the gourmand as well. Cat food was so…pedestrian. Only the idiot boy cat (her brother) would eat food from a can. Her favorites were pork – which could mean anything from carnitas to pulled pork to pork tenderloin (garnering her the nickname Little Pork Chop from my husband’s mother) – and tomato based sauces. She was also quite the connoisseur of top-shelf ice cream. 

    Today, I missed her immensely as I made dinner. I expected her to come by for a bite of pot roast as I shredded it to make  leftover hash. Ugh. It’s just not right…

    Anyway, to get my mind off things, I made the Chocolate Armagnac Cake for TWD. I had all the ingrediants on hand (even the prunes – I love prunes. And if you don’t – you should make Chicken Marbella – that classic 80’s dish from The Silver Palate – cause I’m sure it will convert you), so I didn’t have to face going to the store. And yeah, maybe it was therapeutic for a bit. And I’m sure Miss Vick would have approved as it is a most “upper-crust” dessert which is totally her style  🙂


    Proof that yes, I did make the cake. And it was darn tasty. I am starting to get the hang of this for sure.

    Proof that yes, I did make the cake. And I will certainly make it again...and again...

    Read Full Post »